My blog post on June 15, 2010, was about Arizona's struggles with illegal immigration. I promised in that post that I would spend my winter vacation time and money in Arizona in order to support the people there both financially and emotionally. In a quest to keep that promise as well as to find some warm weather, my husband and I flew out of Anchorage the middle of December with plans to pick up our truck and fifth wheel trailer in Utah. We stayed in the Salt Lake Valley longer than planned because of cold temperatures and snowy weather, but we eventually made it to St. George, Utah, where we celebrated Christmas and New Year's Eve with our children and grandchildren.
Our family left St. George by noon on New Year's Day, and we headed south to find some warm weather and sunshine. Our first stop was in the Boulder Beach Campground on the shores of Lake Mead. We discovered an electrical problem when our RV batteries had too little power to run the furnace properly. With no electricity to run our space heaters and no battery power to run our furnace fan, we spent a cold evening and went to bed about 8:00 p.m. The next morning we attended Church in Boulder City and then moved our trailer to the RV Park. We stayed there for several days while we corrected some electrical connection problems, and then we headed south again looking for warmer weather.
We entered Arizona by traveling on the new sky bridge built over Black Canyon to bypass Hoover Dam. We were both eager to cross this bridge because it was under construction on our last trip this way. It seemed really strange to be traveling through the area so rapidly and so far above the canyon. There is still a narrow switchback road that goes along the top of the Hoover Dam, but the new bypass bridge takes most of the traffic, especially the eighteen wheelers and travel trailers, out of a big bottleneck situation.
Our first stop in Arizona was in Wickenburg where we found a spot in the Desert Cypress Mobile Home and RV Park. After parking the RV, we drove around the town a little to check out the other RV parks and decided we were in the nicest park. The next morning we visited an interesting museum about the history of Wickenburg and the cowboy way of life. Afterwards, we drove about fifteen miles out of town to tour the Vulture Gold Mine. An Austrian by the name of Wickenburg saw a vulture in the area where he found gold so he named the mine after the vulture. The town of Wickenburg was built up to support the mine. FDR ordered the closure of the mine in 1942, and it has never reopened. The tour of the old mine buildings covers about a quarter of a mile and cost $10.00 each. The price was high for what we got - but we were there to financially support Arizonians.
The next day we moved our RV about an hour down the road to Phoenix and learned that a massacre had taken place in Tucson earlier that morning. We joined with the people of Arizona and the nation in mourning the six casualties and in praying for the thirteen wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Flags flew at half staff all over Arizona during our entire visit. I originally thought that Giffords had been targeted for her conservative views on illegal immigration and was surprised to hear that her shooter was simply deranged.
We found a spot to park our RV in the Valley of the Sun RV Park. This park provides the bare necessities - paved site, electricity, water, sewer, laundry and bathrooms - but has no real landscaping in the park. We like the park because it is near my sister's house. Some added luxuries are the access to the Internet and the use of the heated swimming pool and weight room at the Ramada Inn next door. We spent about ten days in the Phoenix area visiting my sister and her family. While there I took the opportunity to do a session at the Mesa Temple and thoroughly enjoyed it. My husband discovered numerous disc golf courses in the area, and we played at several of them. The course I liked the best is called Buffalo Ridge, which is located on the side of a hill covered with desert plants and rocks. The eighteen-hole course provided lots of exercise as we hiked up and down the hilly areas.
My husband and I also climbed to the summit of Camelback Mountain. This towering mountain is located in the middle of the Valley of the Sun and looks like a kneeling camel to those with active imaginations as it towers high above Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley. The 2704-foot peak is the highest point in the Phoenix Mountains and has two summits made of sandstone and granite. The higher or eastern summit looks like a camel's hump while the lower or western summit is called The Head. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the nation and has this peak that draws 300,000 climbers annually.
Camelback has two trailheads. We chose to start our climb at Echo Canyon, which is the most popular as well as being the most difficult trail. It is also the shortest route at 2.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1264 feet. The Cholla Lane route is 2.8 miles round trip and the distance from one trailhead to the other and return is 5 miles.
The Echo Canyon route ascends through sandstone rock formations to unparalleled views from the summit, which offers a 360 degree view of the Phoenix area. From the summit we saw vistas of saguaro cacti and other desert plants as well as luxury homes, resorts, and golf courses. We also saw obvious signs that the desert was beginning to blossom.
This route covers terrain that is nearly straight up and very rocky. The climb up is a very strenuous climb, but the climb back down the mountain was even more difficult. I was grateful for good hiking boots and a walking stick, which eased the stress on my knees and legs both climbing up and coming down the mountain.
When we left Phoenix, we traveled along a narrow, mountainous road through the mining town of Globe,through Pima and down to the Safford area in southeastern Arizona. We learned a little tidbit about Pima: Pima cotton, the really nice cotton, was developed in the Pima area. Thus the name! We were surprised to see mountains covered with snow when the temperature in the valley was in the high 60s. We camped in the Roper Lake State Park in a spot right by the lake and discovered lots of alkali on the ground near the lake. The best part of this park was the natural spring fed hot tub where the water is nicely warm but far from hot; it is at least warmer than the brisk air.
We drove up towards Mount Graham until we ran into snow on the road. There we turned around and went down the mountain to a nice hiking trail called the Ladybug Trail. It went up the mountain above the Angle Orchard, a grove of fruit trees growing in a canyon. After our hike we met Mr. Angle, the former owner of the orchard who was helping the current owner in the orchard that particular day. He told us that his grandfather started the orchard many years ago. Mr. Angle sold it about five years ago because none of his children wanted to run it. We traveled the Ladybug Trail for approximately a mile until we ran into several inches of snow on the trail. The trail was gentle and easy to hike and led through the canyon and across a small stream. We were told that this was an area where early settlers came to get away from the heat of summer.
I took the opportunity to visit the Gila Valley Temple located in the Safford area. It is about the size of our temple in Anchorage but has a very different floor plan. I love the peace, order and teachings found in the temples.
We traveled from Safford through Tucson where we stopped long enough to purchase fuel for our truck. We then continued north on I-10 to Picacho Peak State Park, which is one of our favorite parks. The next morning we started climbing up Picacho Peak on Hunter Trail. This trail is about three miles round trip and quickly gains in elevation. The trek leads up the north side of the mountain to the saddle on a steep, moderately difficult trail. Our walking sticks were very helpful on this part of the trail. We enjoyed the view of the Sonoran desert from all parts of the mountain.
A sign located at the saddle reads: "Picacho Peak has been a navigational landmark throughout history; it helped direct early explorers such as Father Kino and Juan Bautista Anza. In 1932, a 40-foot light beacon was installed at the top of the peak for air traffic navigation. Hunter Trail on the south side of the peak was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps to facilitate servicing the beacon, which was dismantled in 1965.
"When Picacho Peak was dedicated as a state park in 1968, the second phase of Hunter Trail was built beginning on the north side, crossing the saddle, and connecting with the first phase.
"The elevation of the peak is 3,374 feet. You are in the saddle, which is approximately 2,960 feet in elevation. Picacho Peak rises 1500 feet from the desert floor."
The Battle of Picacho Pass or the Battle of Picacho Peak was a Civil War engagement that occurred on April 15, 1862. The battle was between a Union cavalry patrol from California and a party of Confederate pickets from Tucson and was the westernmost battle of the Civil War. The Union army retreated and gave the victory to the Confederates. For the past twenty years, a reenactment of the battle takes place in Picacho Peak State Park in March with about 200 people taking part in the reenactment and about 3,000 people watching it.
We stopped at the saddle long enough to eat a snack and stash our walking sticks before starting down the south side of the mountain. This part of the trail is called the "stair case" and is a steep crude climb over large rocks and railroad tie steps. The cables anchored into the rocks are very helpful. I found it much easier to go down the staircase by turning around and rapelling down the cables. Gloves with rubberized palms were very helpful with the cables.
The trail winds down and around the mountain until it starts up the mountain again. The climb up is very steep and would be much more difficult without more cables and safety fences. I am sure that these safeguards have kept many people from being injured because this part of the climb is very difficult and requires the use of both hands on the cables. It is not recommended for inexperienced climbers or children under ten years old. The view from the top of Picacho Peak is absolutely wonderful and well worth the climbing effort.
We returned to Phoenix for one last visit with my sister before heading to the Lake Havasu area where we found a spot in the Cattail Cove State Park. We found the area around Lake Havasu City to be very beautiful with rugged mountains and miles of desert surrounding the azure blue lake.
Lake Havasu was created when the Parker Dam was completed in 1938 to back up the Colorado River and has a shoreline of 45 miles and an elevation of 450. The structural height of Parker Dam is 320 feet and 100 feet thick at the base. It is the deepest dam in the world with 73 percent of its structural height below the original riverbed. Water from the lake flows to both California and central and southern Arizona.
Lake Havasu City is a young city. Robert McCulloch, Sr. (1911-1977) purchased the land that is now Lake Havasu City in August 1963. His original purchase of 26 square miles cost $73.47 per acre. McCulloch teamed up with C.V. Wood, master planner of Lake Havasu City. Wood had previously planned California's Disneyland, Boston's Pleasure Island, and the first Six Flags in Texas. The population of Lake Havasu City grew from 15,500 in December 1975 to 41,938 on the 2000 Government Survey to more than 55,000 now. It was incorporated in 1978 and became a legal municipality in 1987.
The London Bridge and its surrounding English Village is the main tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City besides the lake itself. This bridge was opened in London, England, in 1831. The granite contained in the bridge was quarried at Dartmoor, Devon, England. The bridge was originally built for pedestrian traffic, but it was later carrying 100,000 pedestrians and 10,000 vehicles each day. The increased amount of traffic with the weight of the structure itself was too much for the footings, and the bridge was obviously sinking approximately 1/8 inch each year by the early 1960s. England was faced with the necessity of replacing the bridge, and Robert McCulloch, Sr., was there to buy it along with some of its surroundings.
The London Bridge is 930 feet long and 49 feet wide and has five arches. It is made of 22 million pounds of granite. The full length of the bridge in London was 1005 feet, and the unused stone is used for souvenirs and gifts.
As the bridge was dismantled in London, each of the 10,276 pieces was marked with a number in order that the reconstruction could be the same. The dismantled bridge was once called the world's biggest jig-saw puzzle. The bridge traveled 7,000 miles to its new home. It was shipped via cargo vessels across the ocean through the Panama Canal to Long Beach, California, and then trucked to Lake Havasu City. The total cost of the bridge, shipping and reconstruction of the bridge was $5.1 million.
Reconstruction of the bridge was on dry land with piles of sand built to support the arches during construction. After the bridge was completed, the one-mile channel was dredged out to create Grand Island in place of the previous peninsula known as Pittsburg Point.
We left Arizona via the sky bridge at Hoover Dam and took the time to drive down to the dam for pictures of the sky bridge as well as a walk along it. Since we toured the Hoover Dam on a previous trip, we didn't take another one this time. Both the Hoover Dam and the sky bridge bypassing it are architectural and engineering marvels and worth seeing.
Hoover Dam is located in Black Canyon on the Arizona-Nevada border near Las Vegas and is named for Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States. Construction of it began in 1931, and the last concrete was poured in 1935. It was built in a remote location under some of the harshest working conditions, and yet the project was completed two years ahead of schedule and well under budget. Hoover Dam was the greatest dam of its day and is still a world-renowned structure. It is a National Historic Landmark, National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. In 1999, it was named the number five construction achievement of the 20th century. It is 726.4 feet high with a base width of 660 feet and contains 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the dam on September 30, 1935. The power plant wings were completed in 1936 with the first generator starting operation that October and the 17th and final generator beginning operation in 1961. Hoover Dam is self-supporting with its operation and maintenance expenses being solely met with revenues from electrical power sales.
Hoover Dam's reservoir, Lake Mead, is America's largest manmade reservoir and was named for Dr. Elwood Mead, Reclamation Commissioner. The reservoir can store 28.5 million acre-feet (9.2 trillion gallons) of water or nearly two years of the river's average annual flow. (An acre-foot of water would cover a football field to a depth of one foot.) Lake Mead has a shoreline of 550 miles and a maximum depth of 498 feet. When the lake is full, it measures 110 miles in length.
Our travels through sunny Arizona were very beneficial for us and hopefully for those we met. We will definitely return to Arizona at the earliest possible time!